There is just over a week before Niseko is officially open for season 2017/18! And the question on everyone’s lips is – when can we get up there and shred? The official opening dates have been decided as follows:
Niseko Grand Hirafu: November 23, 2017
Niseko Annupuri: November 25, 2017
Niseko Village: December 1, 2017
Niseko Hanazono: December 2, 2017
These are the dates announced early in November, while Mt Yotei is receiving its first dustings, and change depending on the weather. While we can’t see the future, we CAN look over some past seasons and have an educated guess.
Below are the predicted resort opening dates for the past five years, along with their actual resulting openings. Compared to that to the final snowfall total for each season. The Niseko area’s legendary 12 metres of average snowfall is our base assumption for average snowfall.
Niseko Resort Opening Dates
Hanazono: Sat 3rd Dec
Hirafu: Wed 23 (delayed to Sat 26 Nov)
Village: Thurs 1 Dec
Annupuri: Sat 26 Nov
Season Total: 668 cm, 4 metres below average
Hanazono: Sat 5 Dec
Hirafu: 21 Nov (Delayed to Tues 1st Dec)
Village: Tues 1 Dec
Annupuri: 28 Nov (Delayed to Tues 1st Dec)
Season Total: 992 cm, 2 metres below average
Hanazono: Sat 6 Dec
Hirafu: 29 Nov (Delayed to 6 Dec)
Village: Mon 1 Dec (Delayed to 5 Dec)
Annupuri: Sat 6 Dec (Delayed to 7 Dec)
Season Total: 1144 cm, average
Hanazono: 7 Dec
Hirafu: 23 Nov (Delayed to 30 Nov)
Village: 1 Dec
Annupuri: 23 Nov (Delayed to 30 Nov)
Season total: 1163 cm, average
Hanazono: 8 Dec
Hirafu: 23 Nov
Village: 1 Dec
Annupuri: 25 Nov
Season total: 1493 cm, outstanding at 2 metres above average!
A Quick Analysis
Looking at opening dates, out of the four resorts Grand Hirafu is always the most optimistic, keen to open during the second-last weekend of November if possible. Annupuri follows soon behind, but often won’t commit to an opening date until a few days beforehand. Annupuri typically opens a couple of days after Grand Hirafu. Niseko Village sticks to a December 1st opening unless delayed, but never hurries. Same with Hanazono, which always aims for the first weekend in December.
Historically a powder paradise, Niseko is said to average 12 metres of snowfall in a given season – so unfortunately, snowmaking just doesn’t exist as a part of the industry here (they’re more about bulldozing truckloads of snow off and away from the roads). You’ll see why they don’t need snowmachines once the season gets started, but it can be frustrating waiting for nature to provide those first few dustings.
What’s in an opening day?
The “early” season in Niseko lasts until night skiing opens, usually in the second week of December. During this time, even though the resort is open, lift tickets are sold at reduced prices. What you see through these early weeks is more lifts and runs being open each day as the snow builds to support the crowds.
When only the top of the resort is open as skiable terrain, the lower lifts will be used to ferry people up to the higher points and then back down again.
With limited terrain, it makes sense to have reduced prices.
Saying that this is what Hirafu village looks like today:
So when do ALL the lifts open?
That’s an even trickier question than resort opening dates, as everything depends on the weather. Looking over the last five years, expect all lifts and terrain to open by around 2 weeks after each resort’s open date.
When do you know it’s a good season?
In Niseko, there will always be snow and good solid powder days, as even in a bad season the snowfall runs rings around much of the world. What stands out in Hokkaido is the light, fluffy snow that other parts of Japan won’t provide.
Statistics say that good, steady dumping in December and January usually point the way to a good season, so until Christmas it’s often too early to tell how long and how good the snow will be.
Saying that, 2016-17 was an unimpressive season on paper on record with above average sunshine during January. Yet snows started early in November, and resort openings weren’t delayed as much as in other years.
Some of our best snow years have had nearly nothing in November, so you can’t say yet what the future will hold!
The truest answer to this question is: you know when you’re out there having a blast.
Keep track with daily updates
If you just can’t get the snow off your mind, you can watch it fall daily on Niseko United’s various webcams:
The Snowjapan website is also a treasure trove of data, with daily snow reports for each of many popular ski resorts in Japan, as well as historical analysis and data (they’re where this blog post’s data comes from, too!)
Meanwhile, snow-forecast.com has precise statistics adjusted to each part of the mountain. You can see Hirafu Village linked here, and I highly recommend you bookmark this site for your snow forecasting: